ROUTES through Runcorn could become no-go areas for buses because of yobs intent on disrupting services and damaging vehicles.
Drivers are running a gauntlet of attack each time they travel through vandal hotspots where buses are used for target practice and passengers put at risk in mindless attacks.
Now one bus operator has warned that regular users will become the real victims of the abuse as services come under the axe.
Craig Mounfield, who owns Town and Country Travel based at The Heath, has already cancelled one route through Runcorn due to repeated vandalism.
He has also stopped services after 6pm as the dark nights provide safe hiding places where vandals can strike.
His action comes after a string of attacks where buses have been:
* Pelted with eggs.
* Used as toilets.
* Shot at with air rifles.
The crunch came when windows fitted to a bus following a shooting were smashed within 24 hours in a brick attack.
'We are thinking of pulling out of the public services sector altogether and cancelling all passenger routes, that's how bad things have become,' said Mr Mounfield.
'Instead we will probably concentrate on luxury coach travel, providing contract work and expanding our disabled mini-bus service.
'We don't want to let our passengers down or seem unreliable, but we are being forced to reconsider the services we provide because of repeated attacks.'
Mr Mounfield set up Town and Country Travel 16 months ago, aiming to provide a luxury, quality-led service.
The firm won a number of passenger contracts from the council but the attacks have deeply affected the business, forcing Mr Mounfield to sell one of his fleet.
'We are trying to do as much as we can to keep services running,' he added, 'but when you've got buses off the road because of vandalism the costs start to mount up.
'However, the real worry is that these attacks could cause an accident or harm our drivers and customers.'
Mr Mounfield's complaints echo those from travel firms Arriva and Glenvale who have reduced services in inner-city areas of Liverpool because of repeated vandal attacks.
A spokesman for Halton Borough Council said: 'We have seen an escalation in attacks on public transport over the past year mainly brick attacks on buses but also vandalism to bus shelters.
'Most importantly, it is recognised there is a significant risk of injury from these attacks as well as the threat of losing key public transport services if the problems are not tackled.
'There have been several meetings recently involving the police, bus operators, council officials, the community safety team and resident groups to discuss this issue.
'Plans, including improved safety arrangements and community education, are currently being drawn up and will be put into action in the near future.'